FIU’s 2016 baseball season ended with a hard-to-believe 7-6 loss to Marshall in the Conference USA Tournament.
Marshall scored the winning run in the top of the eighth by reaching base on a wild pitch, advancing on a wild pitch and then scoring on yet another wild pitch. In the bottom of the eighth, FIU had a runner thrown out at the plate.
Shortly after that loss, Turtle Thomas was out as FIU’s coach. Here’s how Thomas’ last four teams at FIU finished: 26-32 in 2013, 36-20 in 2014, 30-31 in 2015 and 29-29 this year.
Thomas did not want to comment on what happened toward the end of his nine-year tenure at FIU, which had been fairly successful the first five seasons. But Thomas did tell the Miami Herald that he wants to continue coaching.
“That’s been my whole life for 39 years,” Thomas said. “I love to coach.”
The Panthers, who joined Conference USA in 2013, have not made the NCAA tournament since 2011.
FIU has promised a “national search” for a new person to run the program, but local candidates — such as University of Miami pitching coach J.D. Arteaga — could be in that mix.
After winning the NCAA Division II national championship, the Sharks will have to rebuild virtually their entire pitching staff. Closer and team MVP Devin Raftery, who went undrafted but signed with the Astros, is the biggest loss.
But also gone are No. 1 starter Alex Mateo, who was drafted in the 22nd round by the Marlins; Alex Kline, who was drafted by the Phillies in the 29th round; and No. 2 starter Julian Loret de Mola.
The NSU lineup is in much better shape. The only major losses were third baseman Danny Zardon, a 17th-round pick of the Phillies, and senior right fielder Kavan Thompson.
Coach Marc Pavao’s Bucs — rivals of NSU in NCAA Division II — have fallen behind in this fierce battle. Barry went 20-20 last season and will have to replace shortstop Alex DeGoti, who hit .400 and was drafted in the 15th round by the Astros.
The top Bucs expected to return next season are rising junior outfielder Ryan Baldwin, who hit .368 with 11 homers, and their top two starting pitchers: rising junior right-hander Alex Lavandero and rising senior right-hander Luis Deville.
The Lions have a new coach in Miami native Florentino Burgos, a 37-year-old who was a second baseman on the 2001 FIU team that won a regional title.
Burgos got his first head-coaching job at age 27 at North Miami Beach High. He was there two years and spent the past eight seasons as the coach of Hialeah Gardens High.
Now Burgos gets his biggest challenge as the coach of an NAIA program that has no winning tradition. Burgos wants to upgrade the school’s facilities and gain trust of his players.
“I’m going to tap into my resources in the community to find the best players,” Burgos said.
The Bobcats, who fell one win short of reaching the NAIA World Series for the second year in a row, will have to replace star center fielder Jose Gomez, who was drafted by the Brewers in the 39th round.
It was the fifth consecutive year that a Bobcats player has been drafted.